Tip-ups, ice scoopers, augers and pop-up shanties may be foreign words to those outside Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, or to any guy or gal who loves ice fishing. These folks spend many a winter Saturday on the ice drinking beer with friends as they wait for the next bite and fend off frostbite with wool socks and portable heaters.
Thingamajig Theatre’s “Guys on Ice” gives ice fishing widows and other onlookers a glimpse into the shanty as Marvin and Lloyd, two guys from northern Wisconsin, stare into that great wishing hole in the ice. In addition to waiting for the fish to bite, the two men also eagerly await the arrival of Cubby, “dat guy from de fishing show,” who has promised Marvin a visit to the shanty for an upcoming episode.
The ice may be thicker than the plot, but humor compensates and giggles constantly echo through the theater. The characters are likeable stereotypes of practical, simple men. Lloyd laments how the Packers came between him and his wife, and Marvin dreams up ways to catch the heart of his dream girl at Pick ‘n Save. At one point, a jar of pickled eggs is offered to an audience member. Swede jokes, Lars and Ole jokes, Algoma jokes, and, of course, fishing jokes are scattered throughout.
“Guys on Ice” is as fast as two men sitting on wooden crates on the ice and drinking beer could be expected to move. However, the actors’ quirks and wit, along with short and charming musical numbers, keep theatergoers engaged. Tim Moore plays Marvin as one who is sometimes slow to react but quick to seize opportunity — especially an opportunity at the spotlight. From his tongue-protruding happy face to an inspired Elvis impersonation with the ice-chipping pole in his solo “The King,” he shows that action can indeed be stronger, faster and funnier than words.
Brooks Lindner plays the slightly sharper Lloyd, who anchors Marvin lest he float away in his own space. He takes on a more introspective character and serious musical numbers, like the heartfelt “Everything is New,” which he accompanies beautifully on the harmonica, though he is no less funny in song-and-dance duos like “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit,” where he and Marvin tout the comfort, warmth, flaps and zippers of these multi-purpose articles of clothing.
Also musically versatile is Robin Hebert, who plays the trombone, to the Urkel-like character Ernie the Moocher who bursts uninvited into the shanty to borrow Lloyd’s and Marvin’s beer and beef sticks. He also plays host of a highly entertaining “halftime show” with audience participation trivia.
“Guys on Ice” may not uncover any ground-breaking revelations about the mysteries of ice fishing, but the two hours spent up north with Lloyd and Marvin are a lot of fun and pass almost too quickly. And, according to the ice fisherman who sat next to me in the audience, it is in fact a “surprisingly accurate” depiction of what goes on in a typical Wisconsin shanty. Except for — maybe — the singing and dancing.
“Guys on Ice” continues its run at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW for tickets and show information. Thingamajig Theatre Company’s 2011-2012 season is sponsored by Citizen’s Bank and “Guys on Ice” is sponsored by The Pagosa Springs SUN.